This Southern Belle Transformed a Cow Town into a Cultural Mecca

Who: Jane Heard Clinton, an altruist who transformed Tulsa into a city of arts and culture; April 16, 1875-November 8, 1945

Why She Dazzles: Raised as a Southern belle in Georgia, Jane moved with her husband to Oklahoma, then known as Indian Territory, in 1897. As Tulsey Town, a cow town, transformed into Tulsa, the Oil Capital of the World, Jane became the cultural heartbeat of Tulsa and introduced the arts to the booming oil city. Her husband, Fred S. Clinton, became equally influential to the city of Tulsa. Fred drilled Tulsa County’s first oil well, “Sue A. Bland #1,” attracting worldwide attention to the area. He was one of the town’s first doctors and founded the first hospital in Tulsa, where Jane became a central figure in welcoming new members of the medical community. Whether it was organizing the Tulsa YWCA in her home or founding the public library, Jane led a life of public service. 

Why You Need to Know Her Today: Jane set the precedent for Tulsans to be involved in the arts. From the Tulsa Ballet to Mayfest to ahha Tulsa, the Tulsa arts scene flourishes. Jane was a founder and charter member of many of Tulsa’s cultural organizations including the Tulsa Garden Club and Philbrook Museum of Art, both thriving and important institutions in the community. Jane was so influential in the city that Arts Alliance Tulsa created the Jane Heard Clinton Society in her name to honor the many Tulsa women who contributed to the city’s arts and culture, and to inspire the next generation of women to continue their support in the city.

What Someone Would Say About Her—Because It Was Said Then: "Much has been written of the romance of Tulsa's material development and of the pioneers who raised its towers into the sky, but 'she was a pioneer in building the soul of the city.'"—Angie Debo, Chronicles of Oklahoma

Where She May Like to Instagram: Tulsa Theater, formerly known as Convention Hall. Jane was instrumental in raising funds for the theater, Tulsa’s first large capacity performing arts center and the city’s largest for decades. Built in 1914, it was the largest music venue between Kansas City and Houston. Jane was also a musician and founded the Hyechka Club, the oldest and largest music club in Oklahoma, with other musically trained women in 1904 when Tulsa was still a small town. The club’s mission was to promote the musical arts through performances and scholarships—it even welcomed the New York Philharmonic to Tulsa in 1911. Jane served as Hyechka’s first president and was named president for life in 1920.

What the Ladies Rocked Then: Debutante balls for Southern belles thrived in the 1800s and early 1900s and many notable American women made their debut at these extravagant high society parties, including First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Savannah Cotillion Club hosted society balls beginning in 1817 and continues to announce debutantes each year. For decades women have worn white dresses and a string of pearls perfectly placed around their necks for their introduction to society.   

How You Can Rock It Now: Pearls are classic and contemporary and traditional and timeless in their elegance. Pearls come in an array of colors, shapes, and sources, yet all symbolize beauty and purity. Natural pearls are now rare to find because most have already been harvested. Pearl farms grow cultured pearls where mollusks are implanted with a mother-of-pearl bead. These cultured pearls are the most commonly worn today. 

Shop the Sparkle: Pearl Party

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Jane Heard Clinton: Beautiful. Bold. Brilliant.